Tennessee has used a dual-quarterback system to varying degrees in the past. And according to new head coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Vols’ upcoming 2018 season could see another such system being implemented for UT.
According to quotes from 247Sports, Jeremy Pruitt said during a preseason special on Saturday that Tennessee’s two main quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano and fifth-year transfer Keller Chryst, could both be played in the season opener against West Virginia and throughout the season.
“We need to make good decisions (on) when to play the second guy,” Pruitt told Voice of the Vols Bob Kesling during the television special. “Heck, we may play both guys. So we’ve got to figure it out as we go.”
Both Guarantano and Chryst have been locked in a battle all fall, and while most in the media believe Guarantano has the edge over Chryst, neither has been named publicly as the starter. And according to reports, both have looked fairly even in Tennessee’s closed scrimmages this fall.
Pruitt says playing both quarterbacks could be crucial to his team’s success because of the always present threat of injuries.
“To me, it’s hard enough to get one quarterback,” Pruitt explained. “If you can get one quarterback, that’s great. If you can have two or three, you need to give them an opportunity. But I think it’s going to be important for us, whoever our quarterback is, that we need to play the No. 2 guy.
“You look at it all across the United States every year: People get hurt at quarterback, so you want the next guy to have some game experience.”
Tennessee is no stranger to injuries at quarterback. Josh Dobbs was the symbol of consistency in that regard during his Vol career, making 31 consecutive starts from the last few weeks of the 2014 season through the end of the 2016 season. But before and since him, Tennessee hasn’t been so lucky.
Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, and Riley Ferguson all had to suffer injuries in 2013 for Dobbs to even get his first shot at playing for the Vols, and Worley again suffered an injury in 2014 that led to Dobbs taking over the offense shortly after. Last year, Quinten Dormady started the season as UT’s quarterback but eventually lost the job to Guarantano. Dormady, at some point, suffered an injury to his arm and ended up being put on the shelf for the rest of the season midway through the year. Guarantano himself ended up getting hurt later in the year and missed a large part of the Southern Miss contest and missed the entire Missouri game because of it.
Pruitt’s claim about playing two quarterbacks could just be gamesmanship leading up to Tennessee’s season opener against West Virginia. But former Vol head coach Butch Jones made similar claims leading up to the Vols’ season opener against Georgia Tech last year, and Guarantano never saw the field during the contest. He would see playing time in Week 2 when the Vols took on Indiana State, but not in UT’s season opener.
Guarantano made six starts for the Vols last season and went 1-5 in those six contests. Chryst started 13 times for Stanford and was 11-2 as a starter for The Cardinal. Tennessee’s two other scholarship quarterbacks on the roster have far less experience. Will McBride made a spot start in place of Guarantano last season and lost to Missouri. J.T. Shrout is a true freshman.